Dallas-based prison communications giant Securus Technologies has backed off a controversial requirement that some of the jails which sign up for its video calling services ban in-person visits.
Nearly 100 jails across the United States have replaced face-to-face visits with video calls, something they say will save money and increase safety in the facilities. Families, inmates and their advocates protest that it cuts off prisoners from outside human contact. On May 4, Securus announced that it will delete this requirement in its contracts.
The company’s CEO Richard A. Smith said in a statement that after revising language in its contracts that “could be perceived” as restricting in-person visits, the company would eliminate that language and defer “to the rules that each facility has for video use by inmates.” Securus has not yet responded to Quartz request for further comment.
Jails all across the country are introducing video visitation systems. Families and advocates see great potential in video calls as a way to maintain crucial family support. But, they say, in banning face-to-face visits, as well as charging families high fees for off-site calls, jails and private companies turned a positive into something detrimental and inhumane.
Securus said that it had included the no in-person stipulation in contracts because its video visitation system was “very flexible,” allowing for visits at any time. It said that “because of that flexibility, we sometimes included rules that facilities agreed to, to limit contraband and improve the efficiency of jails in our contracts.” Now the rules will be set by the facility.
The move comes after months of pressure from prisoner advocacy groups, and even lawsuits against the company.
“Now that Securus will no longer be requiring that jails ban in-person visits, we are hopeful that sheriffs across the country will see video visitation’s potential as a supplement, and never a replacement, to in-person visits,” Prison Policy Initiative’s Bernadette Rabuy tells Quartz.